Our vision for your school

Students who enroll at Sky Islands join an academic community and are expected to take part in that community respectfully and apply themselves responsibly to academic work.   Students should be prepared to be physically active in our field work projects and intellectually challenged in our classrooms. 

All Sky Islands’ students take a demanding sequence of core classes in math, science, social studies, and language arts.  Electives are open to all students in grades 10-12.  Upper division classes in lab sciences and honors programs are available based on eligibility to those students who meet or exceed the academic and behavioral pre-requisites.  Our classes are aligned with Common Core and AZ State Standards, and integrated across the academic disciplines by grade level.  Expectations are high, but achievable, and students are held personally responsible for their levels of performance.

Our students go on from here to a 4-year or 2-year college, into apprenticeships in the skilled trades, and directly into the workforce or military service.   We encourage you to take part in a site visit and to realistically appraise your student’s needs and interests against Sky Islands’ practices and principles.

Dr Shari Popen, Founder and director

 

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Why choose Sky Islands?

 

SKY ISLANDS’ TEACHERS & STAFF:

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Dr Shari Popen

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Dr Shari Popen

SKY ISLANDS’ FOUNDER/ DIRECTOR

director@skyislands.org

It is a thrill for me to introduce you to Sky Islands– voted one of Arizona’s Best Schools.  Our staff has worked together for many years, is experienced, highly qualified, and student-oriented.  When you come to Sky Islands, you can expect to see a bit of creative disorder at any time of the school day as students and teachers go about their work together. I have a PhD in Philosophy of Education from SUNY Albany, and a Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Kent State University.  Prior to opening Sky Islands, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses at U of A in the College of Education for 10 years, and simultaneously taught in Political Science for 2 years.  I was a faculty member at Western Washington University for 8 years, taught at Prescott College/Tucson and at NAU/Tucson in the graduate Educational Leadership program.  In a previous life, I owned a bookstore in Berkeley. Come join us.  Together we will make the world that we want to live in.

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Karen Flores

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Karen Flores

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

admin@skyislands.org

Prior to joining joining Sky Islands, Karen Flores most recently worked in the UA’s Department of Medicine finance office. Karen received her BSEd secondary education degree in history and social studies, summa cum laude, from NAU in 2006, and her MEd in Human Relations from NAU in 2012. She taught 7th grade social studies at TUSD’s Utterback Middle School, and was NAU’s Extended Campuses’ Program Coordinator for 8 years. In addition Karen provided administrative support at Christensen Elementary School in Flagstaff for 10 years, as well as admin support for the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council, the Coconino Engineering Company, and the City of Flagstaff.

In addition to Karen’s administrative background and secondary education certification, she is a 2008 graduate of the AGTS Supervisor’s Academy and the Intel Lean training program in 2014. Karen has also been a Literacy Volunteer tutor, and is trained in CPR, First Aid, and AED. When not at Sky Islands, Karen’s life is filled with her three dogs and her family, including her grandchild in Flagstaff; with reading and gardening, cooking and listening to music as well as playing the flute.

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Allie Silber

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Allie Silber

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR/ SCIENCE

allie@skyislands.org

Allie has been with Sky Islands since 2014, bringing a field studies component to our project-based science program as well as helping direct the restoration ecology projects. Allie has a BS from the University of Washington in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, attended the Teton Science School in Wyoming, and has received her Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Prescott College. She has taught at the Academy of Math and Science in Tucson; Gann Academy in Massachusetts; and Aspen Community School in Santa Fe, where she created the school garden.   In Seattle Allie helped coordinate the Dream Project among high school students and worked with the children’s garden— Seattle Tilth. Her experience extends to Israel, where she apprenticed at the Hava v’Adam Ecological Farm. As a field science teacher, Allie provides a strong focus on site ecology, place-based and experiential coursework. She was responsible for coordinating the watershed project as part of the C2E grant award. Allie’s work in Santa Fe is presented in the book “It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden”. Allie is an avid hiker, rock climber, and camper and you could possibly run into her on a Tucson trail or, if lucky, backpacking across the United States!

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Lukas Bogard

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Lukas Bogard

SCIENCE/ SOCIAL STUDIES

science@skyislands.org

Lukas is a founding teacher at Sky Islands and has been instrumental in developing the science curriculum and the integrated educational program over the years. He has two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder in American Studies and Ethnic Studies, and is a certified science teacher. He is a graduate of a renowned experiential learning and project-based high school in Denver, and taught integrated science classes in charter schools in Tucson for 3 years prior to joining Sky Islands. Lukas is responsible for developing the astronomy and astrobiology, enthnobotany and food biology, ecology and regional ecosystems, and earth science courses, as well as the cactus garden, the desert tortoise habitat and many outdoor projects. Lukas has also taught a variety of social studies classes over the years, including sociology, US/AZ history, and Native American, East Asian and African history classes.

Lukas is a proficient speaker of Japanese, conversational Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, as well as various southern African languages. He is a master gardener and has introduced students to organic, healthful foods. Expect his classes to go outside and bring the outside in— science at Sky Islands will open your eyes and minds to our living world, and especially the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

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Leighton Jeffy

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Leighton Jeffy

LANGUAGE ARTS

ljeffy@skyislands.org

Leighton Jeffy joined the Sky Islands’ staff in 2019. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Leighton is a 2007 graduate of the University of Arizona, with a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2009 he received Secondary Education English Certification at Pima Community College. Most recently Leighton was the Language Arts teacher at The Rising School, where he taught composition and grammar, creative writing and literature, and literary and rhetorical analysis. He has also taught Language Arts at Satori Middle school and at BASIS Tucson, each for 4 years.

When not in the English classroom, Leighton travels – from age 17 on, he has spent over a decade living and traveling extensively in Egypt, India, South East Asia, and has spent time on a Kibbutz in Southern Israel. Those journeys make their way into his classroom and bring Language Arts alive with the peoples and stories of the world. Students can expect to take a creative part in a Poetry Potluck, a project-based approach to learning English, and a symbolic journey through literature.

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Joseph Mais

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Joseph Mais

SOCIAL STUDIES/ LANGUAGE ARTS

joseph@skyislands.org

Joseph came to us in 2017 from Washington D.C., where until recently he was a Senior Policy Advisor for the Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education, and Senior Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Executive office of the President.  He has worked as a Senior Counsel in the Office of Congressman Grijalva, and for TICAS, The Institute for College Access and Success in D.C.  Joseph has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Arizona, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law School.  He spent one year in Taipei, Taiwan on a scholarship at Shi-Da University to learn Mandarin.

Prior to his Washington D.C. work, Joseph taught at Presidio High School in Tucson, where he was Department Head and teacher in Language Arts and History.  He also taught an Introduction to Law class at Ballou High School in D.C. as part of the Georgetown Law Clinic.  Joseph brings great depth and experience to the Language Arts classes at Sky Islands, designing and building real-world content literacy strategies into grades 10-12 curriculum.  Another side of Joseph—he is a student and instructor of ballet, jazz, and modern dance.

Joseph’s work as national advisor for Higher Education has prepared him to advise Sky Islanders about the process of college enrollment, grant and aid applications, and career choice.

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Peter Maxwell

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Peter Maxwell

MATHEMATICS

pmaxwell@skyislands.org

Peter Maxwell joined Sky Islands in 2020 as our math teacher. He moved to Tucson from the Denver area and is a graduate of the Metropolitan State University of Denver. MSU Denver is an urban university that is well known for preparing students to become career-ready, critical thinkers, and Peter’s coursework there has well prepared him to join the interdisciplinary Sky Islands staff. In addition to his math studies, Peter studied arts and literature, metalsmithing, and weather science at MSU. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Teaching and Learning at Colorado State University’s Global Campus.

Peter’s positive attitude is catching and he brings a can-do approach to learning math. Prior to joining Sky Islands, he had 5 years of experience teaching students with disabilities, and he is a professional level Divemaster and Scuba instructor. Peter teaches Algebra I and II, Geometry, and the 12th grade computer math and science program designed by Edhesive to teach students how to think computationally and solve complex problems. Peter is committed to helping Sky Islanders succeed by making sense of math and connecting math to real world problems.

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Amy Wood--- with Jonny

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Amy Wood--- with Jonny

ARTS

amywood@skyislands.org

Amy Wood joined Sky Islands in 2019 as our full-time arts teacher. Amy has a BA from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, where she majored in studio art, concentrating in painting and printmaking. She studied art and art education at Teachers College, Columbia University in NY, and graduated with MA and teaching certification, K-12. Additionally, Amy studied landscape architecture at the University of Arizona, where she learned about sustainable environments, water harvesting and desert plant and animal life. She also worked as a project manager at the UA Drachman Institute.

Amy taught middle school art at the Central Park East Secondary School (CPESS) in East Harlem, NYC, a school founded in 1995 by Deborah Meier, an innovator of small schools that focused on building relationships between educators and the families/communities. Amy was a teaching artist in learning centers in Manhattan, teaching exploratory, multi-media art programs to public school children around the city. At one center, she worked with the children to create and install a ceramic mural in an outdoor playground space. Amy has also been the studio teacher at Second Street Children’s School in Tucson, a Reggio-inspired school, and has traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, on a Western States’ educators study tour. Our art program is back in color!

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Momo Wilms- Crowe

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Momo Wilms- Crowe

CULINARY ARTS

momo@skyislands.org

Sky Islands is lucky to welcome Momo Wilms-Crowe as our new culinary arts teacher and lunch chef.  Momo is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon (with Summa Cum Laude honors), eager to return home to her desert roots in Tucson. She spent this past year as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Tucson Village Farm, where she worked in the kitchen and on the farm with Becky Yim, who is leaving Sky Islands to return full time to TVF.

Momo is engaged with social justice, food access, and grassroots community organizing on many levels.  She currently organizes with Community Alliance for Global Justice as the co-chair of their Food Justice Project, where she helped coordinate a food justice ‘zine, and has designed food justice curriculum for youth and adults in the Pacific Northwest. She is overjoyed to get her hands in new soil, eat lots of fresh tortillas, and work with the amazing Tucson community that she so deeply loves!  Her inbox is always open to your favorite recipe (and the story behind it!).

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David Rollins

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David Rollins

URBAN HORTICULTURE/ WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

drollins@skyislands.org

Sky Islands is most happy to welcome David Rollins this year as the new urban horticulture teacher and watershed educator.  He came to the Southwest to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Tucson Village Farm, where he honed his understanding of dryland plants, community outreach, and water harvesting in the Sonoran desert.  Pacific Northwest raised, David is a recent University of Oregon graduate. There he studied the intersections between anthropology, environmental sciences, and civic agriculture.

During his time in Eugene, he trained at the UO Urban Farm, led trail crews with the Northwest Youth Corps engaged in restoration management along along the Oregon Coast, co- taught gardening courses at the Laurel Valley Educational Farm. When not gardening, David is an avid cyclist, photographer, reader and forager of both the botanical and mycological realm.